Friday, May 25, 2012


We still don’t know who blew up the highway, but whoever it was got bored. It was a hospital that blew this time, not just any hospital either, my hospital, the one where I used to work, and where my injuries got patched up when Bobcat tore me a few new orifices.

Lord Vile’s emblems were painted all over the rubble, but Vile did a personal television appearance to deny having anything to do with it. He offered his condolences to the injured, dead and their families. He even sent his red-shirted, goggled goons out in force to help with the rescue efforts. I really don’t get Vile. His schemes kill thousands but when something bad happens in his home town that he’s not personally responsible for, it’s like he gets offended, like he’s the only one allowed to wreak havoc in Austin.

Liberty, Jupiter Joe, and I were in the middle of the mess, trying to get people out of the rubble that used to be a modern four story hospital, plus the basement, underneath, where the ambulances parked and the EMT lockers were. The ramp that lead underneath the hospital was, of course, buried completely. I had really disliked my old boss.  But the high probability that he’d been under there when it blew made my throat tight anyway.

Most of the people we pulled out weren’t in any shape to appreciate the rescue. A lot of those folks had already been injured or seriously ill even before the building fell on them. I pulled out far more bodies and smashed parts of bodies than folks who were still breathing.

I saw Novak and Tamara both in their firefighter gear, putting out a nasty blaze that sprung up on one end of the rubble after the initial explosion. With all the canisters of flammable gas that get stored in a hospital, they were desperately trying to cool things down.

Tamara struggled to get her hose stream into the base of a flame that seemed to be resisting her efforts to put it out. It was coming up from below a section of collapsed roof. Every time she got one section snuffed, it would flare up worse in another crack. She was probably fighting a blaze in a hollow below the top layer of stuff. It had to have a fuel source to be that stubborn.

Tamara moved in closer, trying to get to the buried source of the fire. Novak lifted the heavy hose behind her, giving her the slack she needed so she could move farther in.

There was a weird sound from under the rubble, a muffled Foom!

Novak dropped the hose, grabbed Tamara by the back of her coat, spun and tossed her twenty feet into the street. The whole section of rubble on that side exploded all over Novak. Tamara sailed clear of the explosion, landed like being tossed like a football was a perfectly normal part of her day, rolled, and came up unhurt. Debris rained down around her.

“Novak!” I yelled as I ran. I grabbed the wildly spewing and flailing firehose, handed it to the nearest guy in firefighting gear and started ripping my way through the burning wreckage, searching for one buried ex-superhero.

“You need to stay back,” the firefighter shouted at me as I ran right through the flames. “It could blow again!”

All the more reason for me to get Novak out of there now.

A hand stuck out from under a pile of twisted metal girders, and other various chunks of hospital. I tossed cinder blocks, concrete and timbers aside. Novak looked up at me, hazel eyes blinking to clear the dust.
One whole side of Novak’s body was shredded. Bits of shrapnel embedded in his skin stuck out like spines. A couple of the steel girders went clear through his shoulder and belly and came out the other side.

“Shit,” I breathed.

His lips twisted a little. “Should have been wearing my armor, I guess.”

I got so unbelievably angry at him out of nowhere. I wanted to scream and shake him, but it probably would have killed him. “Why the hell weren’t you? Why the hell were you fighting fires and getting yourself blown up, and not even wearing your armor underneath?”

He tried to shrug, but only managed to move one shoulder. The other one was nailed to the concrete block under him. That was all the answer he gave me. It just pissed me off more.

I took my anger out on the metal that had him pinned. I crushed one of the steel girders with my strong left hand, bent it back and forth until I could snap it off. I couldn’t help but move it a little in his wound as I did.
Novak bared his teeth in a grimace of pain.

I tried to stay angry at him. It helped.

The other chunk of steel was straight and short. I figured I could lift him off both of them without doing much additional damage. He’d bleed, though. As soon as I took out the metal plugging the wounds, he’d bleed out in seconds.

The only way I could save him was healing venom. Novak knew I was a dragon now. Hell, he even knew by now, that HE was a dragon, or he wouldn’t have donated blood for me. My venom works best on other dragons, so I knew I could save him if I bit him quickly. I didn’t need to hide my fangs from him, but we were surrounded by news cameras and rescue workers.

I had to get the metal out of his body first. If his body tried to heal around it, that wouldn’t be good.
I worked my arms under his neck and waist.

He groaned as the tiny movement caused him way out of proportion pain. “Serves you right, idiot,” I said softly, losing the last traces of anger. My throat closed with a completely different emotion as I held his battered, bleeding body in my arms.

Novak put his free hand up and touched my face. “Dee, don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

His fingers traced a tear I didn’t remember shedding. It was dusty and smokey and stuff. “Don’t save me this time.”

“Huh?” I looked down at him, blood and dirt smudged all over his handsome, scarred face, and saw the resignation in his eyes.

“This is a good death. I’ve earned it. Just let me go.”

“But …” For half a second, I thought about it. He should have the right. I’d never forced anyone to accept healing when they didn’t want to be healed. Then I got pissed off again. “Novak, you selfish son of a bitch. Damn it, there are hardly any dragons left in the world, thanks to the people you served most of your life. I am not going to let you cop out of life, just because you can’t stand the thought of being like me.”

“I’m not like you, Dee. You’re beautiful and proud. Everything that makes me like you was cut away and thrown in the garbage. I’m not a Georgian anymore either. I’m sure as hell not a hero. I’m just a freak.”

“Aren’t we all,” I said. “Maybe you weren’t paying attention, but there’s some maniac blowing up our city piece by piece. We need you. You don’t get to just check out. You’re the White Knight, Excalibur’s wielder. And that isn’t a responsibility you can ignore, no matter how bad you feel. Now, shut up while I rip a couple of feet of steel out of you.”

I lifted him fast. It was going to hurt any way I did it. At least, this way it would only hurt for a moment.
He screamed and gasped for air.

My arms got soaked with hot liquid as blood gushed out of the two gaping holes in his body.
I had to bite him quick, without anyone else knowing what I was doing. I’d already figured out how to bite someone in front of a bunch of cameras, back when Vlad was nearly killed on Mansfield Dam.

I kissed Novak.

It’s not like it was gross or anything. The guy was hot. It was just that I wanted to smack him most of the time, not kiss him. It was a pretty angry kiss. I bit his tongue with a fang to inject him with venom which was the whole point. No way that stubborn, pig-headed pain in my backside was dying if I could help it. The healing venom slowed the flow of blood over my hands to a trickle, then stopped it.

I started to pull away from the kiss, but Novak put his free hand behind my head, fisted it in the hair at the base of my neck and kissed me back, hard.

I didn’t know what to do. No one had ever kissed me like that before. Jack was always really sweet and gentle, and the two times I’d kissed Vlad had been all me, with Vlad just accepting whatever I was willing to give.

Novak practically devoured me.

It was … kind of … exciting, actually. I can’t believe I even just wrote that, but yeah. It was an awesome kiss. I started to pull away, but Novak was nearly as strong as me. He held my head tight to his. After a second or two, pulling away just didn’t seem all that urgent.

I’m not sure how long it was until he finally let me up for air, but I had a hard time catching my breath. The last time he kissed me, I threw him off a building. You’d think he would have learned his lesson. “Damn it, Novak. Why do have to be such an ass?”

“It’s a gift,” he said with a twist of lips like a pale echo of the cocky know-it-all smartass I met a year ago.

I carried him through the flames, shielding him with my fireproof self inside my new fireproof suit. Then I wasn’t sure what to do with him.

I saw an ambulance parked on the street. An ambulance, yeah. That seemed like a sensible place to take a badly injured man.

The back doors were locked. It was a unit just like my old one. I felt a pang of nostalgia. I looked around for the paramedics for the unit. I finally spotted Angela, who had been Jack’s partner briefly, sitting on the curb, watching the hospital where she’d worked for years burn.  There were injured everywhere, walking wounded wandering past while she just sat and stared.

“Hey! Some help here.” I kicked her lightly to get her attention.

She stood up listlessly and looked at Novak. “You’ll have to take him somewhere else, maam.” She didn’t recognize me in the new getup.

“Somewhere else?  Was there a stupid gas in that explosion?  Open the damn doors of this unit and get this man to a hospital. Now!”

“But the hospital is gone,” she said in a lost little voice.

“Then drive him to another one.” I spoke to her like she was retarded. She was acting like it.

“Dave, is inside. He usually drives. He just went back in to get something.” Her voice trailed off again. She stared, mesmerized, at the pile of rubble and flickering flame.


And I yelled at her and called her stupid. I felt like pond scum.

The ramp that led down under the hospital was buried completely. Anyone who had been down there when it blew was buried now under four stories of former building.

I swallowed. If I still worked here, it could have been me sitting on the curb, lost. It could have been Jack who just went back for a minute because he forgot something.

I looked down at Novak. He’d lost consciousness. I listened to him with my sensitive hearing. His heartbeat was way too fast. He’d lost too much blood. I needed to get him to a hospital, and donate for him, or he might die even with healing venom in his system.

I laid him gently down on the sidewalk right in front of Angela.

“Angela, it’s Dee. We’ve got a thoracic trauma vic. Lost a lot of blood. He’s tachycardic,” I said it as if this were an ordinary call. I handed her Novak’s wrist, so she could feel his rapid pulse under her fingers. Angela and I didn’t always get along, but she was a good paramedic. I needed to get her focused on doing her job, instead of on what happened to her partner. “What’s our tack?”

“He needs a saline drip stat and immediate transport,” she said without thinking. She reached for her kit automatically, but she’d left it in the unit. EMS folks do half their jobs while they’re barely awake enough to function. She’d gone into her automatic mode.

She pulled the keys out of her pocket, unlocked the unit and pulled out her kit. We maneuvered Novak out of his coat, then cut away the rest from his upper body. Trying to cut through a firefighter’s coat is more trouble than it’s worth. Those things are made of sturdy stuff.

Angela got a drip going into Novak’s arm while I pulled the gurney over.

“1, 2, 3 Lift.” We got him onto the gurney, loaded in the unit and I took the keys from Angela’s hand. “I’ll drive.”

She nodded absently, focused on her patent, not on the still burning wreckage where her partner used to be.
I dropped Novak at St. David’s along with a couple pints of my blood.

He’ll be okay, physically. That death wish thing isn’t just going to go away, though.

I’m not really sure what to do about that.

Unfortunately, I am pretty sure it’s on me. I broke him. I shattered his belief in himself, his mission, everything that mattered to him. I thought I’d picked up the pieces and got him going again, but apparently not.

I drove the ambulance, with Angela, back to the rubble that used to be a hospital. We made several more trips, transporting the worst injured. It wasn’t what Liberty would have told me to do. She’d have assumed that someone else could do this. She’d have told me I should do the superheroic stuff, and leave this sort of thing to the normals.

But I’m an EMT and it needed doing.

Dee Dragon

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bruised Ego

Jack and I have spent most of the last few weeks job hunting together at the various hospitals and emergency services in the Austin area.  If we can manage it, we want to be a team again. Job hunting has got to be the most humiliating and soul crushing thing you can do. Place after place, you put in applications, trying to sell yourself, and nobody’s buying. Jack could have gotten a job half a dozen places, but folks didn’t really want to hire me. I’ve got a history of absenteeism that’s all over my previous work record. I’m still working part time with the Protectors, so anyone with half a brain knows that’s not going to change. Plus, I’m just not that good at selling myself. I’m better at sarcasm than charm.
On top of that, some folks just don’t care to work with supes. With the glove on my hand and constant need for dark glasses, I couldn’t pretend I was a normal human anymore. I never have blended all that well, but at least everyone used to think I was human; socially awkward, scatter-brained and irritating, maybe, but human.
At the end of another day of job hunting failure, with not just one, but two, that’s right, two spectacularly blown job interviews, I dropped Jack off at home and went to train at Protectors headquarters.
After getting my butt well and truly kicked by Bobcat, Liberty had very tactfully suggested that I get some hand-to-hand training. She showed me a few basics herself, but said she was not the best teacher for it. Apparently, when you can toss tanks, you don’t get many opponents who want to slug it out with you toe-to-toe.
So, Liberty told me she was bringing in a real martial arts master. This was someone she said whose skills really impressed her. I was half expecting to meet Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid. I wore my spiffy new super-suit. I could have just showed up to Protectors headquarters in sweats, but the suit made me feel more like a superhero and less like a broke, out-of-work paramedic.
Jupiter Joe arrived about the same time I did and held the door for me like gentlemen used to when I was younger. “Your new outfit suits you, Miss Dee.” His eyes raked over the curves the uniform accented. He gave me an appreciative smile and wink.
Nothing boosts a girl’s ego after a tough day like a friendly, non-creepy ogling. I added a little extra swing to my walk in gratitude. “What brings you to Protectors territory? Isn’t that a bit like crossing the iron curtain?”
Joe chuckled as he took off his black leather hat just inside the door. “I’ve always been a bit of a double agent in that particular cold war, maam. I was a Protector before the Alliance recruited me.”
“What made you decide to cross over to the dark side?” I teased him. “Did N-Rage toss you off a building?”
“Nothing like that. No hard feelings against my old teammates.” Joe got a wistful half smile. “It was the usual enticement. Money.”
Somehow, the southern gentleman in the steampunk sunglasses didn’t strike me as being the type to do his heroing for greed and glory. “I hear the Protectors pay a good salary and generous health and retirement benefits.”
“The government provides a good living, Miss Dee, for one person or a small family. But I’ve got four kids and my youngest is autistic.” Joe shrugged broad shoulders under the long black duster.  “My wife has to stay home with my son, so she can’t work. Special tutors and such, they don’t come cheap. There’s no way I was going to send my son off to some special school and only see him on holidays. So I had to make it work.”
“I suppose doing the occasional car parts or luggage commercial is a pretty cheap price to pay to get to keep your son.”
“There is no price too high.” His voice was low and soft. The gentle smile on his face wasn’t there for me.
“He’s a lucky kid.”
He shrugged and winked. “I’m a lucky daddy.”
Liberty came out of one of the offices as we passed. “Joe!” I hadn’t heard her squeal like that before. She flung herself into Jupiter Joe’s arms and squeezed hard enough that ordinary ribs would have snapped like dry twigs.
Joe grinned, lifted the strongest woman in the world off her feet, and swung her around in a circle, his sudden shift in density making his footfalls vibrate the concrete floor like the T-rex in Jurrasic park.  “It’s good to see you, Katie.”
Katie? Jupiter Joe calls Liberty Katie?
“I’m glad you took me up on my offer. I wanted the chance to see you under better circumstances.” The light faded from Liberty’s face.
Joe set her back on her feet. “Bad business that highway bomber. You and your boys have got yourself a very nasty opponent, I’d say, Katie girl.”
Liberty (who makes me call her Catherine) nodded. “It looks like a new player from what my techs can deduce. None of our known adversaries were responsible, despite the Free Earth symbols painted everywhere.”
“While I’m in town, I’m at your service.” Joe made a move with his hand like tipping the hat he was no longer wearing, since it’s bad hat etiquette to wear one indoors. Most folks don’t even seem to remember that rule, much less follow it. “Just give me a holler if you need me.”
“Thanks, Joe. We never have enough qualified people, it seems, but with White Knight off on a soul searching sabbatical, we’re even more short-handed than usual.” She smiled at me. “Dee’s unique abilities have been a huge help.”
I looked at my toes, embarrassed. I bit my tongue before I actually said something goofy like, Aw shucks.
“And that’s why I’m here,” Joe said. “When Ashley came back and told the Alliance higher ups that you had a new hero with both healing and combat abilities. They sent me here to steal her away from you.”
Liberty slugged him in the arm, a friendly gesture that would have broken my humerus bone. “Don’t you dare. We need a healer as much as the Triple A does. Especially now.”
“Remedy’s gone independent. He partnered up with Iron Angel and tendered his resignation.”
“Ouch,” Joe said. “That leaves a big hole in your lineup.”
“Yeah. So, you can’t have Dee.”
I was beginning to feel like a bone between two dogs.
Joe held up a hand in mock surrender. “We’ll just have to leave it up to Dee to decide which team she wants to pitch for, won’t we?”
It’s weird having folks talk about you like you’re not there. “I’ve never been much of a team player, honestly. I just want a regular job to pay my bills. Helping people for a living, especially getting rich from it, just doesn’t feel right.”
Liberty and Joe both laughed at me.
“You’re an EMT, I hear,” Joe pointed out. “You don’t call that helping people for a living?”
Er… I guess he had me there. I looked at my wrist, even though I didn’t have a watch. “I think I’m supposed to be somewhere about now. I’ll just go ahead and learn a little kung phooey from the Jedi master Liberty’s been raving about, and catch up with you guys later.”
Joe said, “I’m headed the same way you are. The Triple-A doesn’t really understand how essential good training is. With my power constantly shifting my mass, hand-to-hand fighting is a tricky art to master. Katie said it would be all right for me to use the Protectors’ training facilities while I’m in town, and recommended I spend some time with her new trainer.”
We stepped into the massive Protectors’ gym with thick padded floors and all manner of arcane exercise equipment. I’ve never seen a set of barbells that went up to 5000 pounds. I guess if you needed something heavier, you could bench press pickup trucks.
The only other person in there when we arrived was a familiar short stocky Hispanic woman with an electric blue streak in her short dark hair. Tamara was my favorite firefighter. Just don’t tell Novak. “Hey Tam, did Liberty invite you to come learn from her new fighting guru, too?”
She chuckled. “Not exactly, no.”
“I wonder what he’ll look like. My mind keeps conjuring up images of Mr. Miyagi or Quai Chang Kane, or Yoda. I doubt he’ll be 900 years old and three feet tall, though.”
Tamara laughed again. “Nope. He’s me, actually.”
“My mom’s Israeli. I’ve been studying Krav Maga since I was old enough to walk. I’m pretty good at it.”
Pretty good wasn’t anywhere close to what Liberty said and Liberty wasn’t easily impressed. There was a lot I didn’t know about Tamara. She talked to Jack more than she did me, if I thought about it.
She shook hands with Joe. “I’m Tamara Perez.”
Yes, I have the manners of a slug. I was too blown away by her being there to remember to introduce Tamara to Jupiter Joe. Ma would have been mortified.
“They call me Jupiter Joe, Miss Perez. Pleasure to meet you, maam.”
“Tamara is fine, Joe. I understand you have some issues with balance?”
“Well, if you mean that I fall on my keister a lot while trying to fight and shift my density at the same time, then, yes, maam. I have some issues.”
“Show me. Come at me as if I were a supervillain and you were trying to restrain me.”
I got really nervous. I’d seen Joe move a freeway. One normal 5’5” woman wasn’t even going to slow him down.  “Um, Tamara, you do know that Joe’s a supe, right?”
Tamara grinned. “The goggles and the duster were a clue.”
“But …”
Tamara ignored me and gestured Joe forward, crooking her hands at him like Neo in the Matrix.
Joe charged, feet sinking to the concrete under the floor pads with every step, so I knew he had the density cranked up.
Tamara stepped in and under Joe’s arm which currently had the mass of a telephone pole, brought her own slender ordinary human arm upward, a slight pressure on Joe’s shoulder that shouldn’t have had any effect.  Sure enough, Joe’s keister met the floor with a thud that rattled the mirrors hanging on one wall.
Tamara nodded. “I see your problem. I think we can work on some ways to help you adapt to your constantly shifting center of balance.”
“That would be greatly appreciated, maam. When that sort of thing happens in a real battle, I could end up with a lot worse than a bruised … ego.” He grinned and rubbed the sore spot.
“All right, let’s see where you are, Dee.  I’m a bad guy. Take me down.”
“Uh…” I couldn’t hit Tamara. I liked Tamara. One thing I really liked about Tamara was having all of her body parts still attached to her body. My punches could go through two layers of sheet steel on a car. What the same punch could do to a normal human body would be … messy.
“It’s all right, Dee. Just take a non-lethal swing or two. Think of me as one of the bank robbers you subdued.”
“Okay. Um. I’m really sorry about this.” Then I threw a punch at my friend, a gentle, carefully calculated punch, which swished through air, and somehow resulted in me lying on my face with my right arm bent at a painful angle, completely unable to move.
Tamara, the tiny normal human, let me, the badass dragon superhero, up off the floor after a few seconds. I wasn’t sure my ego could survive many more blows like that in one day. “Throw something with a little more authority this time,” Tamara said. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be all right.”
I tried to hit her with a solid, go through steel kind of punch, but open-handed to dissipate the power of it, just in case it actually landed. At this point, I didn’t really expect it to.
Tamara’s small wrist impacted the inner surface of my wrist obliquely, dissipating all the power of my strike, and getting her in under my guard. She punched me in the gut while she was in tight and close. I whoofed out air and stared in amazement. Armored abs or not, I felt that tiny woman’s punch more than I’d felt a shotgun blast or big, musclebound Scythe kicking me in the belly with his combat boot. “Wow. Remind me not to piss you off.”
Tamara grinned but it looked pained. “Your problem is you have lots of strength, but no clue how to focus it. I shouldn’t be able to block you. Your punches don’t have half the power they will have once you improve your technique.”
I rubbed my sore belly, confused. “Do you have super-strength?”
Tamara shook her head. “Nope. I’m just really good at making the most of what I have. ” She cradled her hand. Her knuckles were bleeding and her hand was swelling noticeably. She probably fractured something with swelling that rapid. “My reflexes sometimes get me in trouble, though. I forgot how well you were armored.”
I cringed. “I’m sorry, Tam.”
“My own fault.  I should have put on gloves before I took a swing at you. I’ll have to go get this looked at, though. The rest of the lesson will have to wait. I’ve gained a good understanding of what you both need help with the most, at least.”
She’d be in a cast for weeks, and it was my fault, no matter what she said about it. “Come talk to me in the bathroom for a sec, Tam.”
I knew Protectors headquarters was covered with security cameras. I hoped that at least the bathroom stalls weren’t being watched. That would be kind of nasty.
I pulled Tam into one of the bathroom stalls with me and shut the door.
She had a bemused look on her face. “You going to kiss it and make it better, Dee?” she teased.
“Something like that, yeah.” I leaned down to her injured wrist, popped out fangs, and bit.
She hissed a breath in through her teeth in surprised pain, then sighed it out. “Oh. That’s … nice.”
She licked her lips, eyes half closed. “Much.” She looked down at her hand. The bloody knuckles were healed smooth. The swelling went down quickly. Tamara wiggled her fingers experimentally.
“You probably broke something,” I told her. “Even with the venom, it will be a week or so before the bones fully heal.”
“Right, so no hitting armored dragons without gloves for a while?”
I chuckled. “Yeah, I don’t recommend it.”
She stood there looking at me funny. I felt really awkward, squished into a bathroom stall with someone else. This was usually not a place for company. “We’d better get back. Jupiter Joe might think we fell in.”
“Or that we’re making out,” she said with a wink as she opened the stall door and made her escape.
I stood there for a second, confused. Why would he think that?
We went ahead with the lesson. Tamara favored her left hand a little, but it didn’t stop her from using my own momentum against me a few times, resulting in my face and the wall getting very closely acquainted.  Then she showed me how to do the same thing to an opponent stronger than me, using Jupiter Joe as the demo dummy. His turn to kiss concrete.
By the end of the class, I was regretting healing her hand so she could continue the lesson. I’ve felt less beat up after fights with supervillains.
Joe groaned right next to me. “I may be getting too old for this sort of thing.”
After all three of us made use of the showers, I asked Tam if she’d like to go grab a bite. My stomach was rumbling loud enough to vibrate the building like Jupiter Joe’s footsteps.
She looked uncomfortable. “I’d love to, Dee, but I have plans.”
“You got a hot date?” I asked. Tamara was such a cool person. It would be great to see her find someone nice.
She looked uncomfortable. I think she actually blushed a little. Yup, hot date. “I promised to take Jack to that vegetarian Indian buffet place, Madras. He’s been listening to me rave about it long enough, I wanted to ... you know.” Wait a second, she had a date with Jack? I wanted Tamara to find someone, but not MY someone. “You’re welcome to come with, of course.” It sounded like what it was, a lame attempt to not make me feel left out.
Dragons are pure carnivores. Sure, I could go … as a third wheel on a date I hadn’t been invited to, to a restaurant with an entire buffet full of wide varieties of colorful, wonderful smelling food that I couldn’t eat without getting sick, and couldn’t afford to pay for.  Or not. “That’s okay. Um.” He’s mine, I wanted to say, but it made me feel like a caveman just thinking it. “Give Jack a hug for me,” was the politest way I could think of to remind her Jack was mine.
“Will do.” She waved cheerfully as she left.
Jupiter Joe offered me his arm. “May I offer to buy you dinner, maam. Living in Chicago has made me miss decent barbecue something fierce. Do you like the Iron Works?”
I almost drooled on his jacket. Iron Works Barbecue had arguably the best beef ribs in town. In this town, that could be a very heated argument, but it was hands down my favorite.  I hadn’t been able to afford to eat there in ages.
“I’m buying, of course,” Joe said as I hesitated. “I can charge it back to the Alliance as a business expense, wining and dining a prospective team member.”
“I definitely approve of your recruiting tactics. Good barbecue is a bribe that’s hard to ignore.”
Joe’s flattery and Iron Works’ amazing barbecue were just the balm my battered self-image needed.

Dee Dragon